Sound Kaos Vox 3a Speaker Review.
By Steve Huff
It’s so cool to be writing about a pair of speakers instead of a DAC or amp today so welcome back! Today I want to share my thoughts on a very unique set of TINY speakers that bring sound that is quite frankly, out of this world. I debated wether to name this review “The King of MAGIC” or “Alien Technology! When I sit and listen to these little guys it sure seems like there is something crazy going on here. Keep in mind though, the journey with the Vox 3a has not been hassle free! They do require patience and time to set up within your room for the best sound.
These small speakers barely reach 3 feet high when on their dedicated and mandatory stands. Their box is about 1/3 the size of my Fleetwood Deville speakers. They look so small in my room when I walk in but when I play them I am mightily impressed with their sound signature. These speakers, without question, throw the most holographic and 3D soundstage I have ever experienced in my life from any speaker. While I have not heard them all, I have heard a lot and these little guys can hang with the best and exceed others in this area.
Imagine spraying water particles in the air and those water particles become your speakers. That’s what music sounds like coming from the VOX 3a. Airy, light. lit up, transparent as it can get and insanely 3 dimensional. On paper, these also go down to 35hz in the bass department so they are not as bass shy as one would think. The hardest job of a small bookshelf styled speaker is always the BASS. It’s physics as the smaller the speaker enclosure, the less bass energy can be produced.
However, when a speaker is designed by someone who really knows their stuff, miracles can take place in these smaller boxes. Nothing will disappear from your room like a small bookshelf speaker and the VOX3a are the masters of this vanishing act. In fact, that is the main feature of these speakers in my listening experience. The way music seems to breathe as it is the air itself.
The clarity and realism is neat level and while these are not metal or hard rock speakers what they do for vocals jazz, acoustic, classical and even EDM is rather incredible.
After my review of the Enleum AMP 23-R (which is my reference integrated at this moment and I bought the review unit as it was a perfect synergistic match to my Deville’s) I was asked if I would like to review the VOX 3a speakers. Having seen these speakers online I was intrigued for sure as I thought they looked absolutely gorgeous in the photos I have seen. All real wood. Handcrafted. High quality parts. Right up my alley.
I love different, unique, special. I love smaller companies with hardcore passion behind them rather than corporate greed. In fact, most of the larger brand s in HiFi are now all run by big corporations whose main concern is the bottom line rather than quality and sound. This is the case with brands such as McIntosh, Luxman, Mark Levinson, and many others who are made today from a viewpoint of profits over passion.
The VOX 3a speakers are made in Switzerland by a small company called Sound Kaos and it is immediately evident at the love, care, thought and science that have went into these lovely little pieces of art. The main dude behind these speakers is Martin Gateley and he sure does know how to design a speaker. I can not wait to tell you about the listening experience of these little guys as it has been absolutely insanely magical. Notice I did not say “Perfect” or “The best” as such things do not exist in audio.
Today in HiFi there is something for everyone and the Sound Kaos VOX 3a speakers are indeed made for a specific type of listener.
Before I dive deep into my experience with the VOX 3a speakers I will say that I have been used to a huge wide open and 3D sound with my Fleetwood Deville SQ speakers. These speakers have no issues with bass, warmth, imaging, volume, or soundstage. They are the best I have heard in my 35 years of owning audio systems for my tastes.
What these speakers (The Deville) excel at is delivering the emotion to the music and YOU with a big “velvet hug like sound” presentation. I have never heard a speaker like the Deville and its why I own a set. I love big, warm leaning yet magical qualities in my audio system. The Devilles deliver this with absolute ease.
When the VOX 3a arrived I was shocked at how much smaller they were compared to my Devilles. Some online call the Deville a bookshelf when it is in. no way anywhere close to being a bookshelf sized speaker. They are about full range sized yet are a two way design using a conical horn for the high end. The VOX3a looked minuscule and tiny next to the Devilles once I un-boxed them and assembled the stands.
I was overjoyed with the quality of the build, the feel, the materials used. These are indeed like musical art and will look nice in most rooms. Looks are purely subjective but these hit the mark with me on design. They have that Zen like quality about them when it comes to the style and design. Simple. Beautiful. Small.
After looking at them next to my other speakers I thought to myself “there is no way these will be able to fill this space with sound” (and my space is only 13X18). After both stands were set up (I started with the metal stands which are gorgeous in a copper color to match the base) I placed them in my normal spot where speakers usually sound their best. I moved my Deville’s out of the way and sat in the sweet spot ready to be blown away.
I cued up some music I know well using ROON, streaming Qobuz from a Grimm MU1 streamer going into a HIFi Rose 150B (for the DAC duties). It sounded awful! The speakers had no bass, were very hot up top and the mids sounded hollow. I assumed I had a defective pair as there was literally NO BASS. In fact I was getting more bass from a set of Falcon LS3a which only go down to 70hz! The VOX3a are claimed to go down to 35hz, so I wasn’t sure where the bass was.
Hmmmm. I sat and thought for a moment and listened. I realized what was wrong. Because these are so small, they need to be closer together than my Deville’s. They also need to be closer to my listening position. After three hours of experimenting with setup I settled on placing them 5 1/2 feet apart, 6 feet from my listening spot and 3 1/2 feet from the back and side walls. This really brought the sound together and it was night and day, as if the speakers magically fixed themselves.
It’s amazing what slight changes in positioning can do within a room when it comes to your speakers but these little ones were very picky about setup. Once I dialed them in though, I was hearing sounds that I never heard before coming from my system.
*See more on the TWO different setups I found that sounded great with the Vox 3a in the video at the top of this page.
The VOX 3a sound is indeed smaller than my Deville’s but at the same time it is cleaner, clearer and much more holographic and spatial. As world class as the Devilles are in this category, the VOX 3a surpass them. So much so that I am calling these little jewels the “KINGS OF MAGIC”. When I say “Magic” I mean that these speakers do all of the audiophile stuff extremely well.
They are so transparent and clean, each instrument has life, a zip and energy from the top end that brings these instruments and vocals way out into the room and in space. With the ribbon tweeter up on top of the speakers, that high frequency energy is sort of lifting up and into the room where somehow, someway (where the alien tech comes in) these instruments and voices seperate and form a musical painting that is scary accurate and real.
While the body and mid bass is more on the lean side, there is some groove and thump going on. These are not bass heavy speakers though. If they were they would not be able to do this disappearing act in the way that they do. So we do sacrifice some body to the sound which makes everything sound alive, electric, and yes, magical.
As I was sitting and listening one day I was also writing on my MacBook. I had a Buddha Bar playlist running through Qobuz and I don’t know how many times I looked up and around me as I thought sounds were coming from somewhere else other than the speakers. In fact, as I sit and stare at the speakers themselves I can not discern the audio coming from them. Rather it was coming from the air itself. I have heard this phenomenon before, though not like this. Not as prevalent and with such crystalline sound before.
I was running them with my Enleum AMP 23-R which only pumps out 25 WPC of Class A/B power. This amp and these speakers, I was told, were a perfect match. In fact, it’s such a synergistic match that it has been dubbed “Bonsai Audio” by those at Enleum. Looking at the system of the small speakers, small integrated amp and a one box streamer solution really made me realize how powerful this simple yet tiny system is. The name of “Bonsai Audio” really fit. It’s simple, beautiful and magical all at the same time.
Wow. I get it.
As the days went on and I listened more and more to these little guys I realized that I was listening to mostly vocals and some electronic music. I avoided rock, metal and anything that relied on big driving bass to sound full. With my Devilles I can listen to all music as they do great with that mid body kick and bass. With the VOX3a I was listening to loads of Jazz and artists such as Melody Gardot, Diana Krall, Billie Eilish and others.
These little speakers are without question the most spatial little things I have ever heard and the sound quality is surreal at times due to the way music floats in space and is so crystalline clear that you can hear evert little detail in every little sound. Nothing can hide from these as they spit out every little things, warts and all. You will never want for more detail or spatial qualities with the VOX 3a. Wether this is up your alley or not will depend on your tastes.
Vocals can sound absolutely HAUNTING…
Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life” from Qobuz was about as hauntingly beautiful as I have ever heard this track. Sure, the Devilles sounded bigger but the VOX 3a sounded cleaner, more spacious, more open, more see through and this allowed me to truly hear every detail of Shirley’s voice. Her breaths and whisps all heard in a way where the performers were all spread across a wide stage, in their respective places. The purity of the sound was intense, and leaned to the treble and midrange side of things. Vocals were very present into the room almost reaching me at my seat.
Being easy to drive, the 25 WPC of the Enleum had no issues at all powering these little boxes. It was the combo of the Enleum and the VOX that brought forth this intense clarity and transparency.
I decided to see what would happen when I pulled out the big old Pass Labs XA60.8 Mono Blocks. These amps have been with me for the last two years and I use them when I want that juicy, plump and musical Class A sound. I figured they would be a perfect match for the VOX 3a’s and they sure did change the sound up a bit.
With a Pass Labs XP12 running preamp duties, the VOX 3a took on a weightier sound. There was a slightly half shade darker sound and a richer sound as well. It seemed the 60 Class A watts were being well received as the sound grew a bit and sounded like the speakers gained a few lbs, lol. At the same time, I was missing the all out spatial qualities of the Enleum! It was a compromise either way but both ways delivered a sound that some may prefer more than the other. This means that these will change a bit depending on how you drive them.
The VOX 3a are very sensitive to changes in your system from the streamer, DAC, cables and well, everything. Moving them a few inches will change the sound. Toe in can really change it up. WIth these speakers I am telling you that setting them up in your room will make or break them. Setup is key but once you get them dialed in they will blow you mind with the sound they can create.
Dynamics for days, and sounding much bigger than they have a right to these would absolutely be some of the most magical speakers one could place in a small room.
If this is a sound you seek and you have a small room, I can think of nothing better in the $10-$11k area that can do better.